Just over a fortnight ago, someone entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and gunned down close to a hundred people, young and old, male and female, in such utter cold blood that it's incomprehensible to nearly everyone else how one human could do this to others.
Meanwhile he filmed and live-streamed it to an unsuspecting world via Facebook.
It was a completely repellant act perpetrated on innocent people at their prayer. They were targeted for being Muslim, immigrant, brown-skinned. It was senseless and barbaric, and the whole of the country has been shaken to the core. I know, because I live in NZ. I'm not Muslim or brown-skinned, but I'm still an immigrant. These people came here as I did, looking for a better way of life for themselves and their loved ones, and instead found atrocity and unfathomable depths of grief.
But the response - ah, the response! - has been so amazing that, incredibly, it lifts the heart. Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has shown the world what it means to be a nation's leader. Strangers of all hues and faiths have embraced in the street and at the dozens of vigils held in honour of those who were lost. The little country of New Zealand has united in strength and paved the way for the rest of the globe to do the same.
Even Facebook has admitted culpability, posting a response to New Zealand that commits to eradicating the spread of hatred via social media. It is high time. High time for this indeed.
But Facebook and some others have missed the point, somewhat. They have retaliated by striking white supremacists specifically from their platform. While this is understandable in the light of the terrorist involved, it doesn't achieve nearly enough.
All hatred, fundamentalism and extremism must be addressed and removed. All racism. All hate-crimes and hate campaigns, be they against women or frenemies or Jews or the LGBT community or members of another gang. All of it, from this terrible, terrible crime to the insidious remark of a school-aged bully that someone in their group is too fat and ugly to live and they should kill themselves.
It's also missing the mark of another significant factor that relates many such acts of horror, and that is the profile of the man - for it is usually a man - who carries it out. They exist on a spectrum of machismo and testosterone-driven urges for power and control. At one end is the guy who wields his financial power and still thinks, even in this day and age, that as the home's breadwinner he makes and enforces the rules, right down to when dinner should be on the table. Somewhere around the middle of the spectrum is the abuser, who gaslights and possibly hurts his partner, destroying their self-esteem little by little and then projecting all their own wrong-doings onto the abused with a round of denial and distraction - and all behind closed doors so the outside world never sees the painting in the attic. Then at the very, very end - the far right, if you will - are monsters like this.
We need to spot these traits earlier, and help others to notice them too: indications of abuse by the mother figure; a cold and distant relationship with their father figure; an obsession and following of 'mandom' which includes an inclination towards the military, extreme physical fitness, weaponry and the companionship of other dangerously like-minded men; a tendency to be loners, 'odd', and of course, these days, influenced massively by the internet.
I don't know how this can be done. I wish I had the answers. But I think it's something to alert others to, in the same way as this dreadful day opened our consciousness to living peaceful lives with all our brothers and sisters.Let's hope this is a start for a world that is kinder, accepting, even embracing of our differences. I don't follow one religion, but like everyone else, I can pray for that.
And just as my own small way to spread a message of love and tolerance, I've made my book PINEAPPLE - about a 21st century girl with her own social media nightmare, and the Muslim Tommies and British soldiers fighting alongside each other in WW1 - available as a free ebook in whatever format you'd like it. Click the download button. Share some love.